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Does Car Paint Darken Over Time?

Does Car Paint Darken Over Time?

Looking at your car after you’ve put a new coat of paint on it can be enchanting. However, you might notice something seems wrong after it’s been a while, and suddenly, your vehicle looks several shades darker.

Car paint can darken over time. It can happen soon after a fresh paint job as the pigments react to oxygen and become darker as the paint dries or in response to the application of a clear coat. UV rays from sun exposure may also alter your vehicle’s paint over time and make it appear darker in certain areas.

New paint has a way of becoming slightly darker after it’s been on a car for a bit. 

A lot of this has to do with the way oxygen affects the paint as it dries. Some paints take longer to dry, giving oxygen more time to interact with it. Many pigments oxidize when they’re exposed to the air. 

That’s why they’re able to darken.

Different paints respond to light in different ways. Some of them don’t change much at all once you’ve put them on your car. 

Some of them will look much different once they’ve had time to dry. 

Does Car Paint Get Darker Over Time?

Automotive paints have a few differences when you compare it to what you use at home. 

Most of them have metallic flakes inside the paint. That’s what gives them their unique sheen once they’ve finished drying. 

The metal flakes tend to sink as the paint dries, going to the bottom. You may notice the paint begins to darken as the flakes sink. 

That’s a completely normal process.

Automotive paint has three major characteristics. 

The resin describes what’s holding everything together. 

It has the pigment held in suspension. This can also play a huge role in determining the quality of a paint. 

Good resin is going to hold the pigment in place much better. So, it won’t change the appearance a ton as it’s drying. 

A paint’s pigment is what gives it its color. 

Different pigments absorb and reflect different wavelengths of light. That’s what gives them their specific hues. 

The solvent of a paint is what gives it its viscosity.

That’s what evaporates once you’ve applied the paint. It keeps the paint liquid while it’s still in its container, too. 

These components work together to create any modern automotive paint. Each paint has its own combination of them.

So, you’ll have to find one that’s got the right match for your car. Some of them will change tone a lot before they’ve finished drying. 

Others don’t change much at all. 

Does Car Paint Darken As It Cures?

You can expect the paint to look darker the more time it takes for it to dry. That’s because the flakes have longer to sink before they’re stuck. 

Dry paint freezes them in place, locking in their pigment. 

Trying to speed up the paint-drying process could help you get the color you’d like. However, you have to make sure you’re not messing it up. Blow a little bit of air on the car once you’ve put paint on it. 

That can help the paint dry faster, so it doesn’t change color too much. 

Another way the color changes as the paint cures is oxidation. Oxygen can penetrate the paint before it cures. 

Then, it can interact with the pigments inside the paint, causing them to change color. 

Leaving your car in the sun is another way you can make its color change. UV rays can break the bonds holding the pigments together in the paint.

Exposing your car to the sun for too long could fade its color. 

You can prolong your car’s color by protecting it from the sun. Keep it in the garage if you have enough room at home. 

That’s enough to prevent the sun from fading its paint, usually. 

Toss a tarp over it if you don’t have a garage at home. Make sure that it’s able to block UV rays before using it, though. Otherwise, it wouldn’t make much of a difference. 

Does Car Paint Look Darker After Clear Coat?

Adding clear coat to your car can change how it looks. However, it’s not going to make a huge difference to the color. 

Clear coat is a layer of translucent paint that can give a little shine to your car’s appearance. 

It can also help to protect whatever paint you’ve put on the car, too. Putting a clear coat on top of it can protect it from the sun. 

It can even prevent dirt from scratching the paint when you’re driving down the road. 

Now, the clear coat may darken the car’s tone a little. But, it’s not going to make a huge difference.

Your car really needs to look close to how you’d like first. Don’t try to use clear coat as a way to change its color a ton. 

You’ll have way better luck if you just put on a new color first. After you’ve changed its color, you can try putting on a clear coat. That’s going to be the best way to get the results you’d like. 

Zach Reed

Hi, I'm the founder of! Having owned a wide variety of vehicles in my life, I was astounded at how hard it can be to find answers to common automotive questions. Rather than sit idly, I decided to create this website to help others!